Fabulous at Forty
Johnson Canyon Landfill Celebrates 40 Years of Service to the Salinas Valley
It was the summer of 1976. Our nation celebrated its bicentennial anniversary. Families filled up their cars for summer road trips with gas priced at $0.59 a gallon. 14 year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci won 3 gold medals at the Montréal Summer Olympics with seven perfect scores. Yours truly was a newborn baby. And on Monday, July 26, 1976, the Johnson Canyon Landfill (JCL) opened to the public, accepting its first loads of garbage.
Over the past 40 years, the JCL facility (located in the eastern outskirts of Gonzales) has evolved from a managed disposal site for southern Monterey County, to a resource recovery facility that produces clean energy and recycles organic waste. Originally, only metals were separated for recycling, until October 2000 when the facility opened for service on Sundays and began recycling separated yard waste, clean wood, metal, cardboard, glass and plastic, continually increasing the materials accepted for recycling with the evolution of technology in the recycling industry.
After the 2009 closure of Crazy Horse Canyon Landfill in northern Salinas, JCL became the primary regional landfill serving all of Salinas Valley, open 7 days a week with broader recycling services to match the expanded service area.
In 2013, Salinas Valley Recycles completed its 1.6 mega-watt landfill gas-to-energy partnership project with Ameresco, Inc. In 2014, the agency’s Board of Directors progressed in its vision for a “Future Without Landfills” by ending its past practice of importing garbage from outside of Monterey County. Not only did this significantly extend the life of Salinas Valley’s last remaining landfill, it reduced the community’s long-term financial and environmental liability associated with caring for active and closed landfills.
Since Salinas Valley Recycles took over in-house operations of JCL last year, it continues to expand the list of free materials accepted for recycling, including mattresses and box springs. While the landfill was originally expected to reach capacity by 2018, through increased diversion and community participation in recycling programs, ending importation of waste and the construction of additional capacity, the life expectancy has been increased to 2055. Like those of us born in 1976, JCL has lots meaningful life remaining!
We’d like this to be the landfill’s last birthday, but until we figure out how to reduce, reuse and recycle everything we throw away, landfills are still a critical part of our community’s integrated waste management system. Until then, let’s celebrate being fabulous at forty and continue working for a future without landfills!
Mandy Brooks| Recycling Coordinator| Salinas Valley Recycles